Even after about 170 deaths and over 20 stillborns, with the most recent death being reported by CNN on August 20th, Sea World continues with shows and orca performances. Though Seaworld helped raise the “awareness” of these creatures, was it worth all the harm?
About 166 orcas, or killer whales, were captured from their families and put into pools with other incompatible whales, 129 of which are now dead, according to Us.whales.org. Because of the incompatibility of the orcas, they were recorded, by SeaWorld Of Hurt, to attack each other which would rarely happen in the wild considering they could just swim away. “In the wild, orcas have strong social bonds that may last for life, their social rules prohibit serious violence against each other, and when fights do occur, they can find space to flee.”
In the wild, orcas’ life spans are about 40-60 years for males, and 50-90 for females, in comparison to the 10-30 years in captivity where their lives are spent doing shows in a tank as small to them as a kiddie pool would be to us.
The pools they are kept in caused many physical issues. A study in 2017 reported by National Geographic recorded that orcas were known to grind their teeth against the tank walls out of stress or boredom, which would leave wounds that were incredibly prone to infection. Whilst in the wild, tooth damage usually happened over time instead of at such rapid paces. Also, the chemically treated water additionally led to the orcas not opening their eyes and, says their former trainer, Hargrove, cause burns for the trainers. “That was just from our brief exposure,” Hargrove says. “Imagine the whales always having to swim through it.” Along with this, the water’s temperature, being too warm, led to a collagen breakdown, causing their dorsal fins to droop.
Trainers were usually hired based on their swimming, and they were generally uneducated about past incidents. Orcas were trained using food as an incentive, and if they didn’t obey, they either weren’t fed as much – or even at all. This led to aggression between the orcas and the trainers, which resulted in orcas injuring, and sometimes killing, trainers, whereas in the wild there has been no report of an orca causing fatal harm in their natural habitat.
These red flags were constantly ignored, and Sea World continued with shows.
In 2016, however, Seaworld agreed to stop breeding orcas and later stated that their current orcas will be the last generation to perform at Seaworld. CBS News shares a letter including SeaWorld’s agreement to continue shows without the involvement of live animals, once they pass, and focus more on their dining, rescue operations, and amusements.